Children are great - I love them! For about five minutes. Any longer than that and I'm searching the faces of passing adults for "mommy" or "daddy". When I learned that part of my Service Learning Project, assigned to each student by the WJC instructors, would be working for SOME helping with after school activities for under-priviledged school children, I'll admit I felt uneasy from the start.
The day started off easily enough -- I met the children as they showed up from their various school commutes and introduced myself. Three girls made a mad dash for me and flung themselves around my waist each screaming out "I want to work with her!"
"No, I do!"
I'll admit, sure, I was flattered. It's not everyday you have people fighting to hang out with you. And sure, they were six, but hey - I'll take what I can get. For the first hour or so, we were supposed to help them finish up any homework they had. By this time I had settled down next to Derricka - an adorable first grader who had just lost her two front teeth. While I pulled her homework out of her High School Musical folder, feeling determined and authoritative, she proceeded to start yanking on my ponytail.
"Let me play with your hair!" she screamed. Which was extremely unnecessary due to the fact that I was sitting less than 2 inches away from her. I told her not until she was done with her homework, figuring that she'd forget all about it by the time she was done. For the next hour and a half I agonized over trying to get Derricka to write her alphabet. She pouted, pretended to cry, stared at me and laughed, and did something that somewhat resembled foaming at the mouth all in an attempt to get out of her homework. When she started jumping on tables and screaming, I ran for help.
I had barely breathed a sigh of relief when two more little girls cornered me. For the next hour I was forced to give piggy back rides, and one even tried to do a back flip off of my knees -- don't even ask me how that one happened, I'm still in awe.
So that concluded day one for me, and when I left, I was feeling a little discouraged. Over the summer I had thought long and hard about switching my major to become a teacher - preferably kindergarten or first grade. And after that day, those dreams were crushed.
The second day, I head back around the same time. I help some of the other volunteers set up the room for the performer who is coming to do an act for the children. The kids show up and I get tackled, of course. The performer begins, entertaining them with basketball tricks intertwined with a message to stay in school and work hard to acheive their dreams. Towards the end of the act, he lets everyone know that they're going to need some volunteers who can dance. I immediately shrink to the back of the crowd. Most of the kids are standing in the cirlce with him showing him their various ultra-cool dance moves.
Before I know it, I'm pulled up from my seat and told to do my favorite dance. Wishing that some sort of hole would open up in the floor I just laugh and start to walk away. The kids form a barricade and I'm left like a deer in the headlights. I wowed them to silence with my version of "The Robot" and find time to sprint away when Javon, a fourth grader, starts doing some breakdancing on the floor.
So while this experience has probably pushed me from wanting kids at age 30 to wanting them maybe closer to 40, their huge smiles and their affectionate gestures (whether it be pulling my hair, pinching my arm, or piling onto my lap three at a time) truly touched me. I know I can go home from this and can go on with my life, but those kids are there everyday--doing the same thing over and over again while their parents try to make it in the world. I was blessed to be given the opportunity to work with them. And, once again, until next time...